IOWA CITY, IOWA — I have a confession to make ... my son is a Hawkeye.
That explains why I spent Saturday watching Iowa-Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium instead of Illinois-UConn at Rentschler Field (great job of coverage by Scott Richey and Loren Tate).
Long ago, I asked ace Sports Editor Matt Daniels if I could go to the Iowa game and hang with my family. Good guy Matt said “Sure.” My wife, son, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and their two kids had seats in Section 131, Row 52.
My biggest fear on the way to the game was that my finicky cellphone would run out of juice before we got to the gate.
Since apparently paper tickets are fading away, we are reliant on electronic tickets. The patience of the ticket takers as they scanned each bar code was admirable.
We arrived at the stadium about an hour before kickoff. A real departure for me. When I am covering a game, I like to be in the press box two to three hours early. Traffic and me do not get along.
Like Illinoisans, most everyone is Iowa is nice and friendly. They say “Hello” and ask you “How are you doing today?” Ahh, gotta love the Midwest.
Because we weren’t carrying any bags, we sailed through security. Very pleasant experience.
On a perfect, warm summer day, the place was hopping. Kinnick seats 69,250 and there were few openings. It will be jammed tight for upcoming games against Penn State and Minnesota. Illinois visits Nov. 23, so I took a sneak peek.
It had been more than a decade since I went to a college football game as a fan.
Great to be reminded how the public enjoys the games. And how fortunate I am to have a job that gives me great access.
There are inconveniences in the stands that reporters tend to forget. Like long lines to the restroom. Lack of climate control. And having to pay $6 for a pop (or soda, if you prefer the incorrect term).
Oh yeah, and the seats themselves. They are not big, cushy rolling chairs like Illinois and other schools have in their press boxes.
Instead, rock hard bleachers with no leg room. I kneed the poor guy sitting in front of me about 1,000 times, offering a soft “sorry.”
Maybe the biggest change for me came postgame. Normally, I am scrambling to the interview area, where I first listen to Lovie Smith, followed by a string of interviews with players.
Then, two to three hours writing stories for Illini HQ and the Sunday News-Gazette.
At Iowa after the game, there was no postgame scramble. No rush to leave. The Iowa blowout (30-0), meant many of the fans drifted out of the building before the final gun.
On Saturday, nearby Carver-Hawkeye Arena was about to host Illinois-Colorado volleyball. We went inside for minute to cool off. Then, back to the shuttle. Later, dinner at an Iowa City restauant and a full-blown game of Monopoly. Honestly, heaven.
About the fans
Yes, they love their team. And they say some, well, unusual things. Words we don’t hear in the press box.
Kirk Ferentz is the winningest coach in Iowa football history. One of the best in the game. What he has done at Iowa is just short of a miracle.
Yet, he has a few critics. Like the guy sitting near me who was convinced the Hawkeyes needed to try to score a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half. When Ferentz ordered a field goal try, I was sure the fan would storm the field. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. Or someone with him said “Rutgers can’t catch up.”
I sat next to a nice woman from Emmetsburg, Iowa. She pointed to a faraway part of the stadium, club seats where fans could purchase alcohol. There is no beer or wine for the general public.
After watching “Don’t Kick A Field Goal Guy” rant and rave, I realized the wisdom of the policy.
Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at email@example.com.